16 ways to get more followers on social media

By January 12, 2015 Hiring & Recruiting
Baby ducks following the mother duck along the beach

Social media, like all media, is an essential part of any business plan.

Many companies jump in thinking it’s going to be easy. “Hey,” the boss says to some random employee. “We should get one of those Twitter account things. Everybody’s doing it. It takes five minutes to set up. Can you add that to your task list?”

What they don’t necessarily realize is that, once you set up the account, you have to populate it with content, and you need friends and followers to see that content. And all that takes real work.

A lot of businesses are doing social media wrong. Here’s how to do it right, and get more followers and boost your brand awareness in the process. (Some of these suggestions are also listed in this Inc.com article of 39 ways to get more social media followers.)

Follow people: If you want to have friends you have to be a friend. Similarly, if you want people to follow you, you must follow them. Find people in your industry and follow them, follow the people these people follow. Follow people who are not in your industry. Just follow, follow, follow. Once you’re following people, many of them will follow you back. It’s the polite thing to do. If they don’t follow you back after a period of time it is perfectly acceptable to unfollow them and make room for those who might follow you.

Be active: Posting on social media like you’re talking to yourself, or standing in the corner at a party, asking people questions or doing a Show and Tell while they all just ignore you and go about their business. Everyone feels like that at first. Don’t worry about whether anyone sees what you’re posting. Just post – regularly, daily, several times a day. A dead social media account looks worse than no account at all.

Engage: Once you are following, liking, and friending, you must try to engage people in conversation. Ask questions, answer questions, post something amusing just for one person because you think they might like it.

Connect with influencers: Follow influencers in your field and the people they follow, as well as those who follow them. Then engage with those influencers and try to build a relationship. Don’t harass them, just reach out and try to start a conversation. Again, it doesn’t matter if they don’t answer, and many will. Your conversation will be visible to all their followers, and maybe they will notice you.

Post interesting content: Post things that others will want to read and share. This is usually a great blog post or a hilarious meme (best if related to your area or industry), and not usually a picture of your food (unless you’re a restaurant), a selfie or a dry link to something you have to sell.

Be an expert: Offer as much insight and expertise in your field as you can in the form of short pieces of advice, bite-sized industry facts, or links to your blog posts. They call this being a “thought leader.” Be one.

Share other people’s content: Retweet what others tweet. They love that. Reshare others’ Facebook content. Repin people’s pins on Pinterest. People will often show their appreciation with a follow or a reshare of their own.

Use relevant hashtags: More important on Twitter and Instagram, hashtags mark relevant keywords and are like a topic filing system so that people can search for a topic they are interested in and take part in the discussion. A hashtag may trend temporarily – #sochi, #goldenglobes – or be ongoing #torontoraptors, #bluejays, #jobsearch, #careers, #win. Join hashtagged discussions related to your area of interest.

Remember that social media is social: You can’t just post links to your site, like little online ads. You have to post relevant related content, funny posts, jokes, memes, blogs, and other people’s posts. You have to respond to people and reach out to them. That’s why social media is called “social media” and not “advertising.” And realize that you can’t control the discussion and shut someone up if you don’t like something they’re saying.

Be there in realtime: Don’t set your tweets to autotweet while you sleep. Be at the ready to respond to queries right away, and even to jump to the rescue should the opportunity arise. Virgin trains recently demonstrated its social media savvy when Twitter user Adam Greenwood tweeted about his need for toilet paper from a toilet stall on board one of their trains. The company immediately responded and sent someone with paper to Greenwood’s stall. #win #doingitright

Have follow buttons on your website: This is simple. Make sure to have prominently displayed buttons on your site that link to your social media accounts.

Have social media share buttons on blog posts: If you keep a blog, make sure you make it easy for people to share your posts with others.

Invite people to follow you in your email signature: Sign off with “For regular updates, like us on Facebook” or “Follow me on Twitter” with a link.

Give something away: Offer a free consultation or sample product, or other prize when people reply to a post or like your page. I once went to a private viewing and meet and greet with artist David Hockney at the ROM after being invited to reply to a tweet. That was cool.

Hold contests: Invite people to like your page, follow you, fill out a form, and enter some sort of contest to win a prize. This is pretty straightforward, which is why many companies have done it successfully. I have a friend who entered a plus-sized model contest and the number of people who had to view the company page to vote for these women must have been a big boost to their Facebook page.

Pay: Paying to sponsor your posts on Facebook and Twitter puts them into the feeds of people who might not otherwise see them, and gives you a new audience of potential followers. It does work, though it’s still important not to treat your posts as just plain advertising. Even though this is advertising, it’s still social.


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